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Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

09.27.17Eric Snider Installs His Turn and Talk Routine

I’m not really sure where to start in talking about the clip I’m going to share in this post. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s of Eric Snider, who teachers English at Achievement First Bushwick Middle School and who is a TLAC Fellow.

It’s important because it shows how Eric installs a routine in his classroom. One of the most important things a teacher can do to make a classroom learning-oriented is to define (& practice) the right way to do common tasks so that they happen automatically and productively every time. This is something I’ve written about before. For tasks like passing out papers it can create hours of additional instructional time in the typical classroom. But routines aren’t just for behavioral moments–getting from point a to point b. Anything you do frequently deserves ‘discipline’: a clear description of the right way to do it, practiced to near automaticity. This includes things like how to have a discussion or how to mark up a text. Or, as in this case, how to do a Turn and Talk.

Here we see Eric rolling out his Turn and Talk routine–that is explaining it for the first time and installing it through practice.

Snider.FourPartTurnandTalkRollOut.AF-43.2016-03-22 from TLAC Blog on Vimeo.


There are a couple of beautiful aspects of this clip.  First is the way Eric frames the why–it’s about learning and scholarship. Second is the way he puts the practice in a learning context. My colleague Darryl Williams made this point recently: Practicing routines works a lot better and engages kids when the routine is embedded in an authentic setting–when we are practicing real Turn and Talks about content as opposed to hypothetical ones about our summer vacation that are really only a contrivance for the practice. The result, as you can see here, is a routine well build by kids who are bought in the whole way,

The other interesting thing is how many times Eric practices Turn and Talk in the course of his lesson–4 times. By the end of the first day kids pretty much have it. But he divides the explanation of what and how and why up and spreads it across the four examples.

The first time they do Turn and Talk he explains why and the basics of eye contact, “two foot voice” and facing your partner.

The next time he adds details: balancing turns by alternating who starts speaking first.”Window partner first.” He reinforces turning to talk and does a Do It Again to reinforce ‘two foot voices.”

At the end he calls out students who listen and challenge each other, calling students’ attention to the importance of listening and building by praising a positive example.

The fourth time around he introduces the idea of a Cold Call coming out of Turn and Talk to ensure accountability and full effort.

It’s a beautiful example of an academic routine, impeccably installed. You probably saw lots of other TLAC techniques in there:

  • Eric’s beautiful Positive Framing (He assumes the best when he says, “I love the energy but we have to be mindful of making sure we can all hear,” for example) and his use of both Narrate the Positive and differentiating acknowledgment from praise when reinforcing proper Turn and Talk fundamentals: (‘Makaye turned; Jameeer turned.’)
  • His careful and clear What To Do directions,
  • His self-interrupt to catch distraction early at :44 seconds.
  • His use of Pastore’s Perch for giving directions so he has to scan less of the room to see follow through.

Anyway, it’s a pretty amazing video and I’m sure you’ll find a thousand things to borrow or steal.



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